Willis Nunes is a jiu-jitsu black belt under Carlos Holanda, who worked extensively with coaches Henrique Machado and Kaiser Girão of the Checkmat Jiu-Jitsu Team (Dallas, TX branch). Nunes became widely recognized as one of the sport’s foremost competitors after his performance on the International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation’s (IBJJF) 2020 Pan American No-Gi Championships, Willis’ first major gold medal in grappling’s pro-circuit.
Willis Nunes Jiu-Jitsu
Full Name: Willis da Mota Nunes
Nickname: Willis is often referenced as “Pipoca”, which is stands for Popcorn in Portuguese. The nickname started with his aunt (Lani) because of Nunes’ hairstyle, which was puffed out at the time, like popcorn. The nickname fit Nunes’ description even more as he was a very lively child, always jumping around, being generally unpredictable.
- 1st Place IBJJF Pan Championship NOGI (2020)
- 1st Place IBJJF Oklahoma City Open (2020)
- 1st Place UAEJJF Manaus Pro (2019)
- 3rd Place IBJJF World Championship NOGI (2021)
- 3rd Place IBJJF Pan Championship (2020)
Main Achievements (Colored Belts):
- 1st Place CBJJE World Championship (2012 blue)
- 1st Place FJJAM Amazonas State Championship (2018 brown)
- 1st Place IBJJF Manaus Open NOGI (2016**)
- 2nd Place IBJJF World Championship (2013 blue)
- 2nd Place IBJJF Pan Championship NOGI (2018 brown)
- 2nd Place UAEJJF Grand Slam, LA (2018 brown)
** Weight and Absolute
Favorite Position/Technique: Well-Rounded
Weight Division: Galo (57,5Kg / 127.0 lbs)
Willis Nunes Biography
Willis da Mota Nunes was born in Manaus – Amazonas, Brazil, on March 24, 1996.
Nunes grew up in the neighborhoods of Santo Agostinho and Santo Antônio, sharing the residence with his mother Neila, grandmother Pelcimira and also with aunt Priscila, where he spent his early childhood.
Before he started jiu-jitsu Willis practiced capoeira, hip hop dancing, and football (soccer), participating in two capoeira tournaments prior to his commitment to grappling.
At the age of 8, Nunes visited his first jiu-jitsu academy, the (now) famous ASLE, in the São Raimundo neighborhood, a gym run by sensei Henrique Machado – the man behind the success stories of athletes such as Ronaldo Jacaré” Souza and Ary Farias. Unfortunately, Willis’s first experience was short-lived, as he did not have the required authorization from his adult guardian to train with Machado. Nunes would return to training two years later with a coach nicknamed “Rato” (Mouse).
Nunes was 12 years old when he met his father, Paulo Jorge, and it was around that same time that Willis moved in with his dad, his stepmother, sisters, and brothers. Now under his father’s wing, Nunes had the permission to train jiu-jitsu, then joining Henrique Machado’s aforementioned ASLE academy – a gym that would later become a Gracie Barra affiliate.
As he developed in the sport of jiu-jitsu, Willis’ father became very involved as an encourager and supporter of the young talent’s career. At one point, as blue belt Nunes was getting ready to leave the house to compete at the CBJJE World Championship, in São Paulo, when Paulo Jorge promised Willis a car as a prize if he won the tournament. A promise given was a promise kept, and at the time of our interview with Nunes for this article, in November 2020, the grappler still had the car to remember him of this important moment in his life.
As a purple belt, Willis Nunes transitioned to Carlos Holanda‘s BJJ academy. Holanda, or Esquisito as he is often referenced, looking for a team with a more competitive environment that could further his international career. Holanda was widely regarded as one of the prime gyms in the state and the decision proved to be a wise option for the young Amazonas native who started gaining plenty of notoriety on the international circuit.
Nunes’ first big break at purple belt, internationally, happened at the 2017 IBJJF European Open, in Lisbon, Portugal, when Willis took out the tournament’s heavy-favorite, grappling phenom, Kennedy Maciel. After his solid performance at the 2017 Europeans, Willis Nunes traveled to the United States to compete in the top tournaments on the international circuit, and it was there he discovered his father had passed away. While grieving, Nunes pondered his retirement from the sport, but ultimately decided to stay and carry through with his father’s wishes, he who always took great satisfaction in seeing Nunes victorious on the mats.
In 2019, Willis Nunes was promoted to black belt by professor Carlos Holanda, and by the end of the year, Nunes was introduced to Kaiser Girão by both Holanda and another one of Carlos’ former students – Samuel Nagai. Girão ran a facility for professional-jiu-jitsu athletes in Dallas, Texas (USA) and was looking for someone willing to commit to his program. Willis was offered a position on the team, which the young black belt accepted, then becoming part of Checkmat Dallas.
Willis Nunes Grappling Record
- BY DQ
3 SUBMISSIONS WINS
- BY DQ
2 SUBMISSIONS LOSSES
Willis Nunes Fight History
|23703||Lucas Lima||L||Botinha||F2W 142||65KG||SPF||2020|
|23766||Henrique Rossi||L||Referee Decision||F2W 145||65KG||SPF||2020|
|24082||Lucas PinheiroLucas Pinheiro||L||Pts: 8x0||Pan American||57KG||SF||2020|
|24359||Lucas PinheiroLucas Pinheiro||L||Points||Houston Open||64KG||SF||2020|
|27177||Roiter LimaRoiter Lima||L||DQ||Grand Slam MIA||56KG||SF||2021|
|28176||Paulo MiyaoPaulo Miyao||L||Pts: 0x0, Adv||NoGi Worlds||61KG||SF||2021|
|29419||Meyram MaquineMeyram Maquine||L||Pts: 4x0||World Champ.||64KG||4F||2021|
|31510||Italo Bonfim||L||DQ||Pan American||57KG||R1||2022|
|32374||Osamah AlmarwaiOsamah Almarwai||L||RNC||SD NGO||55KG||F||2022|
|34562||Huthayfah Penney||L||DQ||JJ Con||64KG||SF||2022|
|14850||Angelo Guilherme||W||Choke||Manaus Pro||62KG||SF||2019|
|23954||Vinny Saenz||W||Points||Oklahoma Open||64KG||SF||2020|
|23956||Marcus BeddorMarcus Beddor||W||Points||Oklahoma Open||64KG||F||2020|
|24080||Matheus Magalhaes||W||Pts: 10x4||Pan American||57KG||4F||2020|
|24407||Washington Lima||W||Guillotine||No Gi Pan Am.||57KG||RR||2020|
|24408||Washington Lima||W||Darce choke||No Gi Pan Am.||57KG||F||2020|
|27179||Frank CespedesFrank Cespedes||W||Pts: 7x1||Grand Slam MIA||56KG||3RD||2021|
|28170||John Stapleton||W||Pts: 21x0||NoGi Worlds||61KG||8F||2021|
|28174||Reynaldo Leon||W||Pts: 8x0||NoGi Worlds||61KG||4F||2021|
|28694||Joao SomaliaJoao Somalia||W||Referee Decision||F2W 186||60KG||SPF||2021|